When it comes to cultivating virtues, I could make a strong case that nearly every virtue will contribute to your happiness. Humility, the foundational virtue is indispensable…and yet so hard to maintain and cultivate. Pride, like a roaring lion, is always provoking us, often in unseen ways. Our life here is a constant battle with pride so we must be ever vigilant.
But as we journey through Advent and meditate on the Nativity story, let’s contemplate the virtue of detachment. I’m sure Mary had a different picture in her mind of the birth of the Savior…and traveling in her ninth month was probably not something she welcomed too enthusiastically. It’s hard to imagine the level of trust and detachment required to do what Mary and Joseph did. Imagine yourself just jumping on a plane with no reservations or accommodations planned at your destination. Heck, I don’t even like to go stores without parking lots!
It’s important to know our hearts’ desires and to present them to God in prayer, but too often we become attached to those desires. We make the attainment of them our condition for happiness. We even say things like If I don’t get that new car, meet the man of my dreams, have a baby…(fill in the blank) I’m going to be so upset, or angry or miserable. What we don’t realize is that we’ve made a decision with that statement to be unhappy.
When we have a strong and persistent desire it can be a cross to wait for it to be fulfilled. Is it God’s will? Is He ever going to answer my prayer? What if it never happens? Been there. That’s the time to pray for detachment.
Pray for detachment? Yes. Pray for it. If we try by an effort of our will to be detached from this, that or the other thing, we tend to constantly focus on that thing for which we’re praying. It can work against us.
The great spiritual classic, Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence exhorts us to pray this way: Lord, either give me the desire of my heart, or make me so happy without it that I’ll no longer care about attaining it, for it doesn’t matter how I’m happy. Think about that…it doesn’t matter how I’m happy.
As we approach Christmas, pray for the gift of detachment. Ask God to give you the grace to be happy in the moment- to see the hidden blessings, to trust in His plan for your life. Like the scene in the stable, it may come in an unexpected and humble way. And if you’re not looking, as the wise men were, you may miss it.
Wishing you all a blessed and joyful Christmas.
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